Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Mr. McClellan: Hello, children. I’m happy to be speaking with you as a part of your Junior Achievement program. A couple of things, first of all, and then I’ll take your questions. The president, when he heard that I was going to be speaking with you today, was excited about the chance to be involved with a program that seeks to educate children, such as yourselves, about the value of a free-market economy. He sends his greetings and best wishes. And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.

Q: My mom says that …

Mr. McClellan: Please raise your hand and wait until you are called on. Yes, you with the crayon in your mouth.

Q: Does President Bush like kittens?

Mr. McClellan: The president is more of a dog guy, but he has made it clear on numerous occasions that he loves animals of all species. He’s stated that view clearly and consistently over a number of years.

Q: Because my cat just had kittens.

Q: My grandma’s cat, Whiskers, had kittens last year and …

Mr. McClellan: Hold on, everybody sit down and stop talking. Please wait until I point to you. Let’s try to keep moving here, and we can come back to this later. Yes, you with the runny nose.

Q: Does President Bush like SpongeBob?

Mr. McClellan: Yes, the President enjoys a wide variety of animated children’s programming, including “SpongeBob SquarePants”. I think most Americans do. He has, in the past, asked the senior staff to join him at his ranch to watch a few episodes. He has not yet had the chance to see the movie, so obviously we will have to keep you posted on that.

Q: What is the president’s favorite food?

Mr. McClellan: I’m not going to try to speculate on that. He had a nice lobster vinaigrette for dinner a few nights ago, but, uh … Let me check on that. Does anyone have any questions that pertain to what you’ve been discussing in your Junior Achievement program? Questions about our policies encouraging small businesses perhaps? Yes, go ahead.

Q: How much money does President Bush make?

Mr. McClellan: O.K., good question. That information is public and is determined by legislation approved by the House Appropriations subcommittee. The Constitution explicitly lays out the …

Q: Our teacher says that President Bush let some people be tortured.

Mr. McClellan: Now hold on. You need to wait until you are called on. But, to quickly address that issue, if your teacher was referring to the incident at Abu Ghraib, then you need to know that we comply with our treaties and with our … with our …

Q: With our what?

Mr. McClellan: Will you let me finish my response? The President believes torture is a bad thing. So I just want to be clear on that. Those questions have been addressed by grown-ups, and I will leave it where they left it.

Q: My cat had four kittens.

Mr. McClellan: I think I addressed that previously, when you brought it up. Are there any final questions?

Q: How did my mommy get a baby in her tummy?

Mr. McClellan: Um, that’s something that … something that you’ll have to talk to your parents about. That’s going to have to be it. Thank you all.

Justin Peck is a writer and chronic dilettante. He spends much of his free time in bookstores. It has been almost 9,000 miles since his last oil change. He has never been to Paris. People often mistake him for a good listener. He still remembers all the words to the theme song for The Greatest American Hero. He prefers pie to cake. He lives in the Upper Midwest.

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